Work Platform H Arrives at Kennedy Space Center to Support NASA’s Journey to Mars

The second half of the H level work platforms for the Vehicle Assembly Building arrives at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The second half of the H level work platforms for the Vehicle Assembly Building arrives at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

The second half of the H level work platforms for the Vehicle Assembly Building arrived today at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The H platforms are the third of 10 levels of platforms that will support processing of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft for the journey to Mars.

Hensel Phelps moved Platform H on an over-sized load, heavy transport trailer from the Sauer Company in Oak Hill, Florida, and was successfully delivered to the VAB west parking lot work area.

As the platform was being transported through Titusville, the edge of the platform contacted a light pole near US1 and DeLeon Street. There was no personal injury and the City of Titusville is working the repairs. There was very minor damage to the platform and no indication of structural damage.

A total of 10 levels of new platforms, 20 platform halves altogether, will be used to access, test and process the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft in High Bay 3. Twenty new elevator landings and access ways are being constructed for each platform level. The high bay also will accommodate the 355-foot-tall mobile launcher tower that will carry the rocket and spacecraft atop the crawler-transporter to Launch Pad 39B.

The platforms are being fabricated by Steel LLC of Scottdale, Georgia, and assembled by Sauer. A contract to modify High Bay 3 was awarded to Hensel Phelps Construction Co. of Orlando, Florida, in March 2014.

The Ground Systems Development and Operations Program at Kennedy is overseeing upgrades and modifications to the high bay to prepare for NASA’s exploration missions to deep-space destinations.

The first two sets of platforms, J and K, were delivered to Kennedy earlier this year.

To read more about the new work platforms, visit

Forecast: 60 Percent Chance of Acceptable Conditions

2015-3389The launch day forecast remains at 60 percent “go” for the liftoff of an Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft aboard an Atlas V rocket Thursday at 5:55 p.m. EST. The primary concerns are cumulus clouds, disturbed weather and thick clouds at launch time. Our launch coverage on the NASA Blog and on NASA TV will begin at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.

Flying from Space Launch Complex 41, the rocket and spacecraft have a 30-minute window to be able to launch and meet up with the International Space Station in orbit. The Cygnus, an enhanced version carrying more materials than the standard models that flew before, is loaded with more than 7,300 pounds of equipment, supplies and experiments for the station and its crew. Some of the Cygnus payloads will contribute directly to research by astronaut Scott Kelly during his one-year mission on the station. This flight also includes other science cargo include a microsatellite deployer and the first microsatellite to be deployed from the station.

You can read more about the mission here.

OA-4 Coverage and Briefings Next Week

jb_wintery_grungeLaunch week at Kennedy will be as busy as ever heading toward the Dec. 3 liftoff of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying an Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft stuffed with 7,300 pounds of supplies and equipment for the International Space Station. Launch is scheduled for 5:55 p.m. EST. The launch will be shown live on NASA TV and covered here on the NASA Blog from the launch site beginning at 4:30 p.m.

There are numerous briefings and activities planned leading up to launch. The details can be found here. Here’s a quick look at the briefings on tap for next week, too. All will be shown on NASA TV which can be streamed at


Wednesday, Dec. 2: An ISS Science, Research and Technology briefing will be held at Kennedy’s Press Site at 1 p.m. NASA Television will provide live coverage, as well as streaming Internet coverage.
Participants will be:

  • Kirt Costello, deputy chief scientist, International Space Station Program Science Office, NASA’s Johnson Space Center
  • Ken Shields, director of Operations and Education Outreach, Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS)
  • Dr. Brian Motil, principle investigator, Packed Bed Reactor Experiment (PBRE), NASA’s Glenn Research Center, Cleveland
  • Talbot Jaeger, chief technology officer, NovaWurks, and principle investigator, Nanoracks-MicroSat-SIMPL (Satlet Initial-Mission Proofs and Lessons)
  • Andrew Petro, program executive, Small Spacecraft Technology Program, NASA Headquarters, Washington
  • Eleanor McCormack, principal, St. Thomas More Cathedral School, St. Thomas More (STM)Sat-1


Wednesday, Dec. 2: A prelaunch status will be held at Kennedy’s Press Site at 2 p.m. NASA Television will provide live coverage, as well as streaming Internet coverage.
Participants will be:

  • Kirk Shireman, International Space Station Program manager
  • Frank Culbertson, Jr., Space Systems Group president, Orbital ATK
  • Vernon Thorpe, program manager for NASA missions, United Launch Alliance
  • Todd McNamara, launch weather officer, 45th Weather Squadron


Thursday, Dec. 3: A post-launch news conference will occur at about 8 p.m. and NASA Television will provide live coverage, as well as streaming Internet coverage.
Participants will be:

  • Kirk Shireman, International Space Station Program manager
  • Frank Culbertson, Jr., Space Systems Group president, Orbital ATK
  • Vernon Thorpe, program manager for NASA missions, United Launch Alliance

Kennedy Leaders Celebrate 15 Years of Ongoing Space Station Work

International Space Station 15th Anniversary Celebration
Inside the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida, agency leaders and guests celebrate the 15th anniversary of ongoing work aboard the station. On the podium, Chris Hummel of NASA Communications, left, moderates a discussion between center director Bob Cabana, center, and Josephine Burnett, director of Kennedy’s Exploration Research and Technology Programs. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

As NASA celebrates 15 consecutive years with humans aboard the International Space Station (ISS), Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana joined Josephine Burnett, director of Kennedy’s Exploration Research and Technology Programs, in a discussion of the milestone.

They spoke on Nov. 3 in the high bay of the spaceport’s Space Station Processing Facility. It was in that location that many of the key ISS elements were prepared for launch aboard the space shuttle.

Cabana commanded the STS-88 flight of the shuttle Endeavour that lifted off from Kennedy on Dec. 4, 1998. The crew carried the first American-launched element, Node 1, called “Unity.” The highlight of their 12-day shuttle flight was connecting Unity to the Zarya module launched by Russia just a few weeks earlier.

Permanent occupancy of the space station began Nov. 2, 2000, when the first expedition crew docked with the space station. American astronaut Bill Shepherd, along with Russian cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev, moved in and began activation of the space station, and scientific research has continued nonstop.

Cabana has been Kennedy’s director since 2008. During that time, many of the station elements processed at the Florida spaceport were launched aboard the space shuttle.

Burnett’s 28-year career at Kennedy included several roles in overseeing preparation and processing of space station hardware. In 1996, she was assigned to the Space Station Hardware Integration Office, supporting the test and checkout of the Canadian Space Station Remote Manipulator System in Brampton, Ontario, and the Canadian portion of the Multi Element Integrated Test.

In 2000, Burnett joined the ISS/Payload Processing Project as chief of the Future Missions and International Partner Division. She was named the director of International Space Station and Spacecraft Processing at Kennedy in 2010. In this role, Burnett was responsible for all ground processing of space station elements from around the world being prepared to fly aboard the space shuttle.

Watch as Cabana and Burnett recall their experiences in supporting construction of the International Space Station and the strategic value of the orbiting laboratory.

Orion Is Calling . . . Come Be A Deep Space Astronaut


NASA is developing a spacecraft capable of taking astronauts farther than ever before and the agency needs some special individuals to pilot it and conduct the defining work that will be performed by humans far away from their home planet. Orion is the first spacecraft since Apollo that NASA has built with an eye on distant worlds. NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, now in development, will enable humans to reach asteroids beyond lunar orbit, Mars and other potential destinations.

Built with the latest manufacturing technology around systems that are state-of-the-art for safe space travel, the Orion will be able to venture into a three-week flight on its own, and extend its range for a journey to Mars with the use of a habitat module.

The space agency also is guiding an unprecedented transition to commercial spacecraft for crew and cargo transport to the space station. Flights in Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon will facilitate adding a seventh crew member to each station mission, effectively doubling the amount of time astronauts will be able to devote to research in space. The science conducted on the orbiting laboratory will be applied to Earthbound uses and to decipher what needs to be done for space explorers headed into deep space.

If the opportunity to explore realms never touched by humans before entices you, circle Dec. 14 on your calendar, because that’s when our astronaut application cycle begins. Gather your credentials, review your transcripts and papers and count down to the chance to join one of the most selective groups of professionals in the nation. Orion is calling!

Cygnus Moved to Launch Pad for Dec. 3 Liftoff


2015-3363Orbital ATK’s enhanced Cygnus spacecraft was transported to Space Launch Complex 41 early this morning and was lifted to the top of a waiting United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket for launch Dec. 3 on a resupply mission to the International Space Station.

Sealed inside a protective payload fairing, the 20.5-foot-long Cygnus left the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at about 3:20 a.m. EST. It arrived at the pad at about 5:30 a.m. A crane at the Vertical Integration Facility at SLC-41 hoisted the spacecraft and fairing into place on the Atlas V with the first phase of the connection complete around 9:30 a.m.

The spacecraft and fairing will be secured in place and a series of tests run to confirm a proper attachment. The enhanced Cygnus, which carries 25 percent more mass than the previous version, has been loaded with more than 7,100 pounds of equipment and supplies that will be used by the space station crew for daily operations and to conduct cutting edge science on the orbiting laboratory. Launch time Dec. 3 is 5:55 p.m. EST to set up a rendezvous with the station Dec. 6. The launch window extends 30 minutes. Photo credits: NASA/Dmitri Gerondidakis

Kennedy Emergency Response Team Hones Skills at Annual SWAT Round-up International

Members of NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Emergency Response Team take off running during a challenge at the 33rd annual SWAT Round-up International in Orlando, Fla.NASA’s Protective Services organization is tasked with protecting one-of-a-kind facilities and a world-class workforce at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Ensuring the safety and security of this 144,000-acre, multi-user spaceport allows agency programs to stay focused on mission success.

One of NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Emergency Response Team members scales the outside wall of a concrete tower at the 33rd annual SWAT Round-up International in Orlando, Fla.It’s a 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year job that demands constant training for any number of real-life scenarios. Last week, eight members of Kennedy Space Center’s Emergency Response Team took part in the 33rd annual SWAT Round-up International alongside 60 other teams from across the country and around the world.

“The entire week is very physically demanding and challenging. The teams competing in these events are all very good and some dedicate much of their training time specifically for this competition,” explained Emergency Response Team Commander Bill Young of Chenega Security and Support Solutions.

Although the Kennedy team does train specifically for the competition in the weeks leading up to the five-day event, it spends the vast majority of the year focusing on protecting the spaceport.

“Our training time is spent on site preparing for responses to potential critical incidents that might occur here,” Young said, pointing out that the greatest benefit to participating in the annual Round-up is the chance to meet and work with other teams.

“With the threats and challenges that exist for law enforcement today, it’s short sighted to think any SWAT team can handle it all alone,” Young said.

“The ability for our officers to effectively communicate and even integrate with other teams during a crisis is a force multiplier for our Protective Services, which benefits our center and the entire community.”

Photos by NASA/Kim Shiflett

Cygnus Sealed Inside Fairing

23004328681_f754a1c2fd_oThe enhanced Cygnus spacecraft and more than 7,100 pounds of cargo have been enclosed inside a payload fairing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida as processing moves ahead on schedule for a Dec. 3 launch. The Orbital ATK Cygnus will be moved to Space Launch Complex 41 early Friday and lifted to the top of a waiting United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

The spacecraft, which will carry no people, is to lift off aboard the Atlas V to take equipment, experiments and supplies to the International Space Station for use by the residents there including yearlong-crew member astronaut Scott Kelly. Speaking to the news media last week, Orbital ATK’s Dan Tani – a former astronaut who served as a station resident – said a 22442657874_f07a7bb177_onew round of cargo always brings excitement: “It’s a real morale boost. It’s like coming home from the store and unpacking the trunk full of the things you bought. A lot of stuff you didn’t know you needed along with a lot of things like notes from home and other items that are really meaningful.”

The enhanced Cygnus can carry about 25 percent more mass than its predecessor and features upgraded Ultraflex solar arrays that unfurl like a fan into a circle and are lighter than the previous models. For NASA, the increased capacity brings the obvious benefit of taking more to the station at once, ranging from daily supplies of food and clothing for the station residents to new experiments so astronauts can continue to use the space-based laboratory to the benefit of all on the Earth. For the astronauts, the new round of cargo brings excitement. Photo credits: top – NASA/Dmitri Gerondidakis, below – NASA/ Kim Shiflett.

Space-Grown Flowers Will be New Year Blooms on International Space Station

Veggie_Patch_finalFlowers could be blooming on the International Space Station after the New Year.

This morning, Nov. 16, NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren activated the Veggie plant growth system and its rooting “pillows” containing zinnia seeds on the space station.

It is the first time that a flowering crop experiment will be grown on the orbiting laboratory. Growing zinnias in orbit will help provide precursory information about other flowering plants that could be grown in space.

“Growing a flowering crop is more challenging than growing a vegetative crop such as lettuce,” said Gioia Massa, NASA Kennedy Space Center payload scientist for Veggie. “Lighting and other environmental parameters are more critical.”

Lindgren will turn on the red, blue and green LED lights, activate the water and nutrient system to Veggie, and monitor the plant growth. The zinnias will grow for 60 days, which is twice as long as the first and second crop of Outredgeous red romaine lettuce that grew on the space station.

During the growth cycle, the LED lights will be on for 10 hours and off for 14 hours in order to stimulate the plants to flower.

“Growing the zinnia plants will help advance our knowledge of how plants flower in the Veggie growth system, and will enable fruiting plants like tomatoes to be grown and eaten in space using Veggie as the in-orbit garden,” said Trent Smith, Veggie program manager at Kennedy.

Researchers also hope to gather good data regarding long-duration seed stow and germination, whether pollen could be an issue, and the impacts on crew morale. Growing tomato plants on the space station is planned for 2017.

The Veggie system was developed by Orbital Technologies Corp. (ORBITEC) in Madison, Wisconsin, and tested at Kennedy before flight. Veggie, along with two sets of pillows containing romaine seeds and one set of zinnias, was delivered to the station by SpaceX on the third cargo resupply mission in April 2014.

Ponce De Leon Inlet Tracking Site to Support Space Launch System

PDL-11_05_2015-Dish-Install-(17)Engineers and technicians from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and contractor ViaSat Inc. are completing restoration of a launch communications site at the Ponce De Leon Inlet Tracking Annex. The facility is located in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, 35 miles north of the spaceport. The annex will provide a crucial tracking capability following liftoff of the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. Carlsbad, California, based ViaSat recently installed the S-band dish antenna site that will provide tracking during the second and third minutes after liftoff. One minute into flight, the line-of-site from Kennedy tracking antennas are obscured because of the highly reflective plume from the SLS solid rocket boosters. The S-band portion of the microwave spectrum combines command, voice and television signals though a single antenna. The Ponce De Leon Inlet Tracking Annex is being reestablished following decommissioning at the end of the Space Shuttle Program.
Photo credit: NASA